The Minefield of Critiquing – Should I Give a Critique?How do you tell someone their work sucks?
OK, so you don’t like the characters in the ms you’re critiquing. Tell the author that you don’t connect with their hero/heroine. Say why. e.g. actions don’t equate with words, thoughts or emotions (the character says one thing, their behaviour reflects the opposite). Perhaps they're acting in a way contrary to what the situation demands. Or they’ve done something that really turned you off. I read one story recently where the hero kicked at a bird with no provocation except it landed before him as he walked along a street. Well that action lost me completely. I started hoping a real hero would come along and give him a thrashing.
In ‘Alien, Mine’ I had a rather invasive operation performed on the heroine (for the better) without her permission and she just accepted it. My fabulous CP pointed out that that would not be the case—especially after what she had so recently endured. This was an instance of me getting on with the story and not paying enough attention to each and every detail. My bad. My lazy bad.
You also need to be aware of what genre your CP is writing. There are certain standards that must be met for each form of work.
Keep an eye open for practical mistakes such as:v Driving on the correct/wrong side of the road in whatever country the book may be set.
v That technology/syntax/mannerisms are current for the era.
v That a hurricane is a hurricane and not a cyclone.
v That a piece of equipment is capable of performing as described. (e.g. A Vespa really can't do 200kph without some serious tinkering or outside influence)
Be alert for continuity. If a character is sitting relaxed in a chair, make sure they don’t suddenly appear in the next room without explanation. Or they were married and suddenly they’re single. Or they loose a foot in height over a few chapters. Or change species. Or that your impressively muscled, hotter than sin hero doesn’t morph into a sultry, curvaceous, buxom redhead—at least not without a darn good explanation. J
Be conscious you don't push your CP to imitate your writing. I often find the easiest way to get my point across is to provide an example. My CP is well aware that this is my way of illustrating a point and I am not telling her it should be written this way.
Using 'Track Changes' and 'Comments' is an excellent way to keep note of your suggestions/comments. Try not to be too blunt when making comments (though I have to admit that this is a fault of mine). My CP and I live over 500 kilometres apart, so when critiquing we cheat—we Skype and have an online meeting so we each can explain our comments. J
Keep in mind that all rules are not cast in stone. Australian Romantic Suspense author and 2011/2012 R*by winner, Helene Young has often quoted Douglas Bader "Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men". Having said that, you should point out any overuse or inappropriate use of 'broken' rules such as passive voice.
In conclusion, having a CP is not for everyone.
On the other hand having a CP can be one of the most beneficial things you could ever do for your writing. It has been for me. :)
Giveaway of kindle copy of Alien, Mine to one commenter.
THE BLUTHEN HAVE ONE CONSUMING PASSION: THEMSELVES. IN THEIR EXPANSION ACROSS THE GALAXY, THEY WILL GO TO ANY LENGTHS TO DOMINATE SPECIES THEY ENCOUNTER.Torn from modern day Earth and stranded on the far side of the Galaxy, Sandrea Fairbairn must use every particle of courage she possesses to adjust to her new life and live for tomorrow/a new day.
Eugen Mhartak, a general in the Tri-Race Alliance Army, refuses to bow to the merciless Bluthen. Haunted by the loss of far too many innocent lives he has vowed to drive the ruthless invaders from Alliance space.
The strength and valour of Eugen Mhartak attracts Sandrea as no man ever has, but she struggles to read the enigmatic general’s heart. Determined to help him triumph over the Bluthen she uncovers a diabolical plot against the Alliance.
Drawn by the courage and exotic beauty of Sandrea, Mhartak battles to overcome the barriers of cross-cultural differences that separate them and claim her ardent interest. He must conquer his deepest fears to be the man she needs. When his principles are betrayed by his own government and he is faced with the impossible prospect of taking Sandrea’s life in order to save his home planet, Mhartak desperately searches for a way to keep safe both his world and the magnificent woman who has stolen his heart.
Born in the far north of Australia, yearly cyclones, floods and being cut off from civilization for weeks at a time were the norm. An outrageous imagination helped occupy Sandra’s mind.
An abiding interest in astronomy and a deep-seated need to always see the good guys win naturally influences her writing. Not satisfied with the amount of romance in science fiction novels she set out to redress the balance.
She currently lives in sunny South East Queensland, Australia, with her husband and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who doesn’t seem to realize she comes from royalty and should act in a more appropriate manner.
So, how do you feel about critiquing? I love my crit buddies and am so glad we've learned to trust each other enough to give honest crits that are always balanced!